Friday, July 23, 2010

23rd July, 2010 In for the long haul?

The two horses on the Isle of Wight were both well bred, highly athletic horses. The first, B, has had a long time off for various reasons and her owner wants to get riding her again. Sometimes people have to be in for the long haul and I can support them along the way with just the odd session here and there. For older horses it is just the same as young horses in that they have to be physically and mentally fit to work. Although things can be done in parallel, I always look to the physical first so that we can make sure that the horse is able to do the work it will be asked to do, i.e. that we are acting ethically. In B's case some long reining and pole work will all help to get her back and stomach muscles working again. Given that she can be spooky when ridden (and she's a big horse in a spook!) we needed to make sure that the groundwork is all in place. It's easy to think that a spooky horse means that you are disconnected; that there is something wrong with the bond between you. Watching Jan and B together it was clear that there is a really strong empathetic bond between them as B matched Jan stride for stride, action for action without any pressure at all. It was quite moving to see. Our next step will be some desensitisation work as B is frightened of things moving suddenly and anything novel. I hadn't recognised the true value of this work until I heard that Kate, Annie's sister, has been riding her Thoroughbred out for the first time in five years thanks to the work we have been doing.

The afternoon took me 10 minutes down the road to Solomon. He's a tall boy and at 2 years old, he hasn't learned how to stop his automatic, instinctive need to go into pressure at the slightest challenge (and I don't mean any sort of big pressure here). I sense that he is desperate for a play mate and sees humans as just that. All of his pent up energy came our way. We concentrated on asking for the smallest stuff so that we could reward him for that with lovely slow, flat rubs to his neck and show him the difference between the behaviour we wanted and the behaviour we didn't. I had to make use of the rattle bottle when he dived in with his shoulder or started to rear but then reward him the instant he stopped. He wasn't afraid of the rattle bottle but the noise was uncomfortable enough to move him away. This isn't a horse being naughty at all, all of his behaviour is entirely natural but we need to find a way to ask him not to use it around humans. I felt that it was important to keep it really very simple and I am hopeful that this is the start of getting him to understand what we want.
"Thank you so much for yesterday, you have given me a great big kick-start to get going with B, there is confidence again (like I used to have), I really thought we had not bonded, that I just really was just a food cupboard. " JL